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HindustanTimes Sun,13 Jul 2014

Agatha Christie: The mystery queen unravelled

Sonakshi Babbar, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 12, 2012
First Published: 06:49 IST(12/1/2012) | Last Updated: 06:49 IST(12/1/2012)
Detective novelist Agatha Christie is well established in Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Bestselling Author. Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages. And why not? Most of us have chewed our nails, and gripped our seats while deeply engrossed in the exploits of iconic sleuths Hercule Poiroit and Miss Marple, but do we know anything about the shy, reserved hospital nurse who created these icons out of sheer boredom?

Agatha - the writer of the night

Agatha Christie was a shy child, home-schooled and prone to suppressing her feelings. Though still a reserved shy girl at 24, she married Archie Christie, a World War I fighter pilot in 1914. With the world gripped in the world war turmoil, Christie like many other young women tended to the sick in the hospital. It was while working there, that she came up with the idea of writing a detective novel. "Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop… suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head." It's as if universe conspired to tinker a writer out of her.

PHOTOS: Top 5 books by Agatha Christie

The detective with the curled moustache - Hercule Poirot

Famous for upward-curled moustache Hercule Poirot, remains one of the most iconic detectives in crime fiction history. He is the only fictional character in history to be honoured with an obituary on the front of The New York Times. He made his first appearance in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, called upon by his friend Hastings, to solve a most mysterious murder. And he went on to appear in thirty-three novels and fifty-four short stories, including some of Christie's best such as Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Death on the Nile. His friend Mr. Hastibngs described him as "He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible." Poirot has been portrayed on radio, on screen, for films and television, by various actors, including John Moffatt, Albert Finney, Sir Peter Ustinov, Sir Ian Holm, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina and David Suchet.

The granny of all detectives - Miss Marple

The shrewd spinster, Miss Marple is more like your neighborhood granny than a cigar smoking, black-hatted detective. But while her nimble fingers are busy knitting sweaters, her mind is capable of solving mysteries. In her first appearance in The Murder at the Vicarage, she starred as the intuitive old English lady, and the journey continued in twelve novels and twenty short stories. In her autobiography, Agatha Christie attributed the inspiration for the character of Miss Marple to a number of sources especially her grandmother, "Miss Marple is the sort of old lady who would have been rather like some of my grandmother's Ealing cronies - old ladies whom I have met in so many villages where I have gone to stay as a girl".

The mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie

Writing about mysteries had its effect on the writer too, and one day out of the blue she disappeared. On eight of December in 1926, the writer vanished from her house in Berkshire. Rumours of her suicide and murder started doing the rounds when her abandoned car was found near a lake. After almost three weeks of suspense, she was found at the Hydropathic spa hotel in Harrowgate, where she had checked in under a different name. The incident, which seemed more like a scene from one her own novels, was later turned into a book, Eleven Missing Days by Jared Cade. Another novel, Agatha, by Kathleen Tynan, based on the mysterious disappearance, was adapted for a movie starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman.

The romantic side of Christie

Hardcore Christie fans would swoon in their chairs than believe that their good old mystery queen even penned four mushy romantic novels under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott.

Facts and Trivia

  • Agatha Christie's play The Mousetrap has the longest theatrical run. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952 and is still running.
  • Agatha Christie based Miss Marple upon the character of Caroline Sheppard in 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.'
  • Agatha Christie once chloroformed a hedgehog that had got entangled in a tennis net in order to set it free.
  • Agatha Christie considered 'The Mystery of the Blue Train' 'commonplace, full of clichés, with an uninteresting plot'.

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